Zack Snyder reveals 4 surprising movies that inspired his new Netflix movie Rebel Moon

Kora points a pistol at someone off-camera in Netflix's Rebel Moon: Part One - A Child of Fire movie
Zack Snyder's Rebel Moon wasn't solely inspired by his rejected Star Wars pitch (Image credit: Clay Enos/Netflix)

Much has been made of Star Wars' towering influence on Rebel Moon. Zack Snyder's latest big-budget movie – his second project for Netflix – was initially pitched to Lucasfilm before Disney's 2012 takeover of the entertainment company scuppered the popular director's dream of creating his own film trilogy in that famous galaxy far, far away.

Unfazed by a setback that would disappoint many other filmmakers, Snyder – alongside long-time collaborators Shay Hatten and Kurt Johnstad – turned his failed pitch into Rebel Moon, an epic spacefaring team-up movie that will spawn a sprawling, multimedia franchise Netflix can call its own. Indeed, with plans for multiple spin-offs including an animated show, comic book series, and narrative podcast, the world's best streaming service is throwing its full weight behind Snyder's brand-new IP, which could be the epic sci-fi fantasy franchise Netflix has been looking for.

As a voracious consumer of entertainment-based media, Snyder is keen to stress that Rebel Moon is more than just Netflix's answer to Star Wars. When I sat down with Snyder at the UK junket for Rebel Moon Part 1: A Child of Fire, which releases exclusively on Netflix on Thursday, December 21 in the US (December 22 in the UK and Australia), the multi-talented creative highlighted Rebel Moon's western and fantasy influences as much as – if not more so than – its sci-fi roots. 

Here, then, are four unexpected and/or classic movie inspirations that informed one of 2023's most anticipated new Netflix movies, according to the man himself.

Conan the Barbarian (1982)

Where to stream it: Starz and Tubi (US), Disney Plus (UK and Australia)

With its swordplay and sorcery-influenced elements, it'll come as no surprise to learn that Rebel Moon took narrative and visual inspiration from 1982's Conan the Barbarian. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as the titular character, this epic fantasy flick saw Conan embark on a quest for vengeance after Thulsa Doom (portrayed, funnily enough, by Star Wars icon James Earl Jones) and his snake cult raiders killed Conan's parents when he was a child.

Like Snyder on many of his films, Hollywood legend John Milius co-wrote and directed Conan the Barbarian, while the production design work of Ron Cobb – another Star Wars alumnus who also contributed concept art for Alien, Indiana Jones, and Back to the Future among other movies – was also a key inspiration for Rebel Moon's various sets and other design elements.

"I'm a big John Milius and Ron Cobb fan," Snyder explained. "I love Ron as a production designer and his design work in Conan had a big impact on this one."

Given the award-winning talent attached to Conan the Barbarian, maybe we should consider adding it to our best Disney Plus movies.

Excalibur (1981)

Where to stream it: rent or buy (US, UK, and Australia)

John Boorman's 1981 epic medieval fantasy flick, which retold the classic Arthurian fable for the umpteenth time, helped to launch the careers of actors including Patrick Stewart, Liam Neeson, and Ciarán Hinds. At the time of its release it also left an indelible mark on the impressionable 15-year-old Snyder – and, more than 40 years on from Excalibur's theatrical launch, it played a major role in defining a key part of the Rebel Moon universe's lore, particularly when it comes to the humanoid character Jimmy (voiced by Anthony Hopkins) and his namesakes.

"Excalibur is a big influence on all my movies," Snyder said. "But on this one especially, with the Jimmy soldiers themselves and what they represent – you know, this knight [of the roundtable] concept that they're dedicated to their quest, which is an idea I really like."

Heavy Metal (1981)

Where to stream it: rent or buy (US, UK, and Australia)

Based on the popular dark-fantasy, sci-fi, steampunk, and erotica magazine series of the same name (which also heavily inspired Netflix's Love, Death & Robots animated anthology TV show), Heavy Metal's 1981 movie adaptation was as big an inspiration for Snyder's fledgling concept for Rebel Moon – Snyder has previously revealed that he first conceived the idea for a fantasy sci-fi project during his college days – as any other form of media.

"Heavy Metal's animated movie, not just the magazines, tonally informed Rebel Moon," he revealed. "It's this really bizarre thing that gave off a completely different, weird feeling you got from films of its time. Watching it back now, it has this almost impossible retro feel to it. 

"I've actually just made a poster for Rebel Moon's 70mm projection [for its limited theatrical run between December 15 and 21] that's inspired by Heavy Metal and makes you think 'where did this movie [Rebel Moon] come from? What is this?'. When you find yourself referencing another thing that you designed over on the side, you know you've done your job of world building, even if it's weirdly self-referential or like an ouroboros, where the snake is eating its own tail."

The Fifth Element (1997)

Where to stream it: AMC Plus (US), rent or buy (UK), SBS on Demand (Australia)

Okay, Snyder didn't specifically mention The Fifth Element by name. However, he revealed that the work of French artist-writer Moebius – real name Jean Giraud – who was co-production designer on the Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, and Gary Oldman-starring sci-fi movie, had a big impact on Rebel Moon's aesthetic, style, and vibe.

Between 1979 and 2004, the late cartoonist also produced concept art for Alien (available on Hulu in the US and Disney Plus internationally), Tron (Disney Plus worldwide), and Masters of the Universe (Prime Video in the US and Australia, Amazon Freevee in the UK) among others. 

"Beyond the movies I've mentioned, a lot of inspiration came from Moebius and Richard Calder's 'Frenzetta'," Snyder added. "Like Heavy Metal, they're tonally similar to what you'll see and feel with Rebel Moon and, again, have this kind of bizarro flavor."

Clearly, the French creative's striking sci-fi, fantasy, and western illustrations struck a chord with Snyder when it came to crafting Rebel Moon's stylized look. So yes, while other iconic movies, including western team-up The Magnificent Seven, plus epic sci-fi like Star Wars and Dune, shaped aspects of Rebel Moon's universe, Giraud's impact can't be overlooked.

TechRadar will be bringing you plenty more Rebel Moon coverage in the lead-up to release, so check back in with us later this week for more from our exclusive chats with Snyder and the movie's ensemble cast. In the meantime, find out why Snyder really wants Rebel Moon's director's cut to test your runtime limits.

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Senior Entertainment Reporter

As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

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